Thursday, August 02, 2007

Q & A Thursday

Aloha fine friends! This morning I got an email from a friend that is spending the summer in Hawaii, and it really made me envious of all those that are enjoying white sandy beaches, frothy ocean waves, drinks with little pink umbrellas . . . But I digress. Back to the issue at hand -
Hopefully everyone stopping by the blog today will be super enthusiastic that I'm not in fact at the beach, because it means that instead, I'm right here at all of you eager folks' disposal.
So bring it on, its Q&A Thursday - what are you all just itching to know about the buis on this beautiful August Morning?


Blogger Kristen Painter said...

Is there anything someone could write in a query that would turn it into an instant "no" for you?

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 10:28:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is first person POV still considered the kiss of death in historical romance? And would having a strong paranormal/fantasy element change that in any way?

My ex-agent claimed that 1st person historical romances were pretty much a no starter, but I'm wondering if the huge popularity of 1st person historical fiction, along with the prevalence of 1st person chick lit hasn't changed that resistance somewhat.

Thanks! And my condolences on not being in Hawaii. If it makes you feel any better, neither am I. ;-)


Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 11:05:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Lis said...

Do you think the YA market is still strong or is it starting to slow down a little?

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 12:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Kristen - The biggest turn-off in a query is someone who hasn't researched their market.

If I'm just starting to scan over the query to get a feel for the project and I see 40k word adult-fantasy, I know its not going to work out -

What else, there are other things that are turn-offs, the things that agents say again and again such as addressing the query to every agent in the industry, proclaiming your world-wide author success will begin as soon as one of us publishing professionals gets a clue, comparing your work to a market phenomenon such as JK Rowling, Nora Roberts, Dan Brown.

Hmmm, what are some other big no-no's FOR ME personally? Humor that comes off offensive, poor grammar, genres we don't represent. You MAY have the next big novel but if we aren't versed in that publishing arena it will be a challenge.

Another thing that a lot of people do is highlight that this is their first novel or their first attempt at writing a story. Now, I have NO problem with debut authors, half of my client list is in this boat, but don't put your writing on a lower pedestal right off the bat.

The last major thing that I can think of as a big turn-off is when someone doesn't know what they are writing. They say its a cross between A, B, and C AND Z - this instantaneously makes me think that they are unfamiliar with what they are writing and that its not going to be a marketable book –

These are some of the obvious items that an author can do to shoot them in the foot prematurely. In general though, I’m pretty kind hearted, you have to have written something bad for me to automatically say “no” without even giving the query a chance.

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 1:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Stuart Neville said...

When querying an agent, would it ever be a good idea to give a reader discretion warning? If your sample pages contained some particularly strong language, for instance, woud it be advisable to give the agent a heads up in case they swoon across their slush pile?

I understand that the author should have researched the agent well enough to know the kind of material they represent, but it can be difficult to judge what someone I've never met might find offensive.

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 2:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Nell - Deidre and I chatted about this topic because its difficult to assess hard and fast rules such as these because the *right* book and the *right* author can pull off what others say are “impossible.”

At TKA we love first person fiction of all stripes, Deidre in particular. I do think that paranormal and fantasy elements are giving some historicals a bit of a kickstart, but it’s important to note that overall—despite some encouraging news at RWA—it seems that historical romance remains a tough category. Which for us is a huge bummer because we all love historicals, again Deidre in particular who represents Jennifer St. Giles (who just hit USA TODAY!), Lauraine Snelling and Kate Pearce. She’s also an avid reader of authors like Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn, and has totally turned me into another fan girl of both of these two talented ladies.

So we are all hungrily looking in this genre, but it has to essentially blow our minds.

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 2:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

The market is still VERY strong. Many lines are still expanding and evolving to accommodate this new genre that has grown to include adult and teen readers alike.

We have seen no slow down, in fact each month it seems we are finding out about new venues that are looking for this type of material.

Editors are looking for things out of the box, things that haven't been done yet that really capture the teen voice. However, ideas in vein of the Gossip Girl Series still continue to be popular as well!

And in a moment of excitement – is anyone else out there as excited as I am about Stephenie Meyer’s Eclipse release date being under a week away!?

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 2:32:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Elaine! Especially for consulting with others in your office.

I'll just have to make sure and work on it until it's mind-blowing!

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 2:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Conduit - I don't think a “reader discretion” is necessary, if what you are presenting is being done in a tasteful manner.

A general rule of thumb, I would be hesitant to send anything of this nature unless you are confident that it is in fact the type of material the agent in question is interested in.

For instance, here at TKA we handle a lot of Erotic manuscripts – I see a lot of material that may totally offend other agents, but again, because we are known to handle some pretty hot and heavy stuff, when these manuscripts are presented to us, it is in a professional nature and we are prepared for what we will find within the sample.

If you haven't had an opportunity to meet the agent in person, find out who they already represent in your area. Then go check out that client's material to see if it contains clues that suggest this type of content is appropriate.

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 2:40:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an agent versus agency question.

Scenario: The author writes for multiple markets and it isn't easy to find a single agent who represents, say, sexy romance and middle grade. Is it better to look for separate unaffiliated agents or to target an agency that has agents who represent the spectrum among them? How closely do agency agents work together?


Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 2:47:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do agents ask for synopses of all books, including "literary" ones? I ask because a friend--who got an agent recently, and without the aid of previous connections--suggested to me that agents only ask for synopses for genre fiction, and generally do not for literary fiction (not that genre can't be literary, but you know what I mean).

It was his experience that out of all the agents he contacted, only one asked him for a synopsis. Everyone else just got a query and then asked for a partial or a full, if anything.

I am sure my own book could be synopsized and I'm willing to work hard at it if I have to... but it's very difficult for me to imagine a decent way to convey my book in 1500 words. It's got multiple protagonists, minor characters whose roles are difficult to exclude, a lot of invention that needs explanation if mentioned but is also difficult to exclude, and a caper plot at its heart that, when I try to explain it succinctly in a paragraph, gives even me a headache, like a bomb of quirks just exploded in my face. But it works in the book.

As it is I worked four weeks (literally full time, and nearly every day) to get at a snappy 230 word summary for my query letter, but there I at least had the benefit of a relatively strict format, and countless examples (bless Miss Snark's old crapometers).

Anyway! I digress. The point is: was my friend's advice correct, and I can skip the synopsis, or was his experience an anomaly?

Thank you!!!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 3:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Phoenix -
I would definitely look for full-service AGENCY that has the ability to handle all of your writing needs. It would be a challenge to find separate agents to handle your different genres. There are just too many different issues when it comes to scheduling and option material and such that need to be coordinated carefully amongst your different publishing houses.

Here at TKA it is very common for one agent to handle one aspect of an author’s career while another agent handles another. We are in-house together so we can sit down and meet and discuss and map out our plans for the author. We can also all easily communicate about where we are at every stage in the process. It is something that we do FREQUENTLY for many of our clients

I do have one additional thing that I would say about the matter - When querying I would focus on only 1 genre, the one you want to pursue more immediately - If you have an agent that expresses interest during your correspondence I would then mention that you are interested in exploring other areas down the road. However when you are just getting your start it is important that you have a set goal until you get set on solid ground within the industry.

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 3:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

The dreaded Synopsis. You know what I'm not a fan of them either - typically I don't read them unless some extenuating circumstance demands it. However, you need to have one. You know why? What happens when that agent that you ADORE calls you up and says they love, love, love your query and they want a synopsis immediately? Again, remember it all goes back to the professionalism - you always want to be ready to present anything that anyone asks of you at the drop of a dime, especially something like a synopsis where the industry standards state "have a synopsis".

I know that they are challenging and I totally feel your pain, it is a challenge to bundle up a HUGE story in a neat little package - Ask your CPs or pre-readers help - remember don't sweat the small stuff, the synopsis doesn't need to involve every plot detail and all the minor characters, just a sweeping summary of the main points that move the plot from point A to B to C

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 4:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Thats it folks! Have a wonderful evening!

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 4:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Celeste said...

I am SO excited about Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse! I'm counting days and clearing my reading list :)

Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 5:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lis said...

Thanks so much for answering my question Elaine :o) Good to know YA's a good area to be heading in to. Am totally looking forward to reading Eclipse. Love her writing

Friday, August 3, 2007 at 3:49:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



Friday, August 3, 2007 at 9:47:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not really as i know what i like in books and what i don't!

linda b

Friday, August 3, 2007 at 9:50:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am anxiously awaiting the book too!

linda b

Friday, August 3, 2007 at 9:53:00 PM EDT  

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